This is going to come as a shock I know…but pre-service education programs are not preparing teachers for a technology rich classroom teaching experience. Or to put that another way the classrooms of today.

According to a Project Tomorrow Report

…principals concluded that they want to hire new teachers with creative ideas about how technology can be leveraged to create authentic and differentiated learning experiences. But student-teachers report that their tech training focuses only on simple management tools. At the same time, the report concludes that those who have the biggest influence on new teachers — veteran educators –  don’t always embrace new ways of using technology to engage students. ~MindShift

Photo Credit: uoeducation via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: uoeducation via Compfight cc

This is an issue and one I have seen first hand. I have had the privilege of meeting with pre-service educators in both undergraduate programs and Master’s In Teaching programs…mostly here in the State of Washington. Now some of these programs are doing things different, trying to do things differently or bring a different approach. However, for the most part what I’m finding is technology is still an afterthought in these programs and not a true representation of what is happening in schools.

One of the main issues I see is that technology, in many programs, is a separate course and is not integrated into each of the subject/classes that a pre-service educator takes. History teachers….as part of their program should be required to know how to use all the amazing layers found in Google Earth. Math teachers should know about things like PhotoMath and how you could leverage this in the classroom. English teachers should study and understand how writing has changed over the years and have students practice writing in mediums that apply to 2014. Blogs, Tweets, Status Updates, images and videos. Those are the writing tools of today and of the future.

Or how about just on an professional level. I wonder how many pre-service program cover things like:

  • How to respond to an upset parent over email
  • How to respond to an upset student over email
  • How to respond to colleagues professionally over email
  • How to write a professional email that conveys your message and will be read
  • How to handle a situation in which a parents sends you a DM on Facebook about their child (yes they can…yes it happens)
  • How to handle yourself professionally when everyone has a camera in their pocket
  • How to update your “class website” in a manner that is appropriate, within school guidelines and gets your message across to your community

That’s a list that just rolls off my head in about 5 minutes…I’m sure you can add more to the list in the comments.

Teachers-in-training say coursework focuses on technologies that help a teacher stay organized, rather than ways to engage students. In their methods courses, where teachers learn the mechanics of running a classroom, 71 percent report that they’re taught to use simple word processing, spreadsheets and database tools, 64 percent report learning how to create multimedia presentations and 55 percent say they’ve learned how to use interactive whiteboards. ~MindShift

It’s not just that technology is not being integrated into the course subjects and methods courses but that what is required to be produced is not good stuff typically. Sure 64% report learning how to create multimedia presentations but are they good presentations that take into account what we know about brain research? I’m going to guess not.

Are pre-service programs and methods courses looking at what skills need to be replaced for this generation? Are they studying new approaches to learning such as gamification and reverse instruction. Where they might work and where they might not. Are they studying new and emerging learning theories like Connectivism that was written and has been around since 2005 and is the foundation to what MOOCs are based on.

I shouldn’t be complaining I guess this is exactly what has made COETAIL so popular. We cover all these topics and so much more over the course of our program. BTW a new cohort is starting in February…feel free to spread the word!

We have work to do throughout education and preparing students for their future. We can’t rely on new teachers coming from pre-service programs to be the answer. Yes…they use a ton of tech in their own lives but have never been taught how to apply that to the classroom in a safe and learning focused way. Are they ahead of the game….sure….but without the focus on how and why learning changes when we have access to a connected classroom that tech life skill is wasted.

We can do better…..

This week I had the opportunity to do a talk at the ECIS IT Pre-Conference here in Amsterdam. I found it challenging to come up with a message to help drive a conversation forward when you’re speaking to the committed. Usually my talks are aimed at teachers who need a reason to use technology in their classroom not to those already understanding the changes taking place and wanting to know where we go from here.

It was a great challenge as it forced me to really think deep about where we are right now in this world of technology integration…and just where we are in the world in general right now.

What I came up with is this:

To start with I have come to an understanding that this technology trajectory we are on isn’t a straight line. That we go through moments of great technological growth…usually around new hardware….and then we have these plateau periods. They might not be as flat as they look in this image…but there are definitely slower periods I think of innovation as we prepare for the next disruption.

So the image above shows my thoughts on this kind of innovation and plateau idea that I think we go through.

We saw steep climbs when the desktop came out…then there was a period of using them before the Internet came out that created another steep climb of innovation. The laptops and then mobile where other steep moments in technology innovation. These times when we try to figure out what we do with this thing. How does it impact education, what’s it’s best use, etc. We are all trying to figure out how to best use this new technology.

In between these climbs we have moments of pause that allow us to really look at learning, the new technology, and start thinking of ways to really truly use it in the classroom to impact student learning.

I believe we are in one of these pauses right now….we’ve been in one since about 2011…or a year after the iPad came out. There hasn’t been any real new technology. Sure things get faster, smaller, lighter…but it’s all mobile right now…that’s the stage we’re in. I think we also have a couple years left in this pause before wearable technology creates the next steep stage and sends us all once again scrambling to figure out how this new technology impacts education.

I have been thinking about how we use this time well. How do we use this pause to go really deep in our understanding and integration of what we have at our finger tips? Most of you that read this blog are either technology teachers, integration people, IT people…or teachers passionate about technology. I think this is the question we need to be focused on right now. How do we go deep into really changing what the classroom and education looks like? We don’t have a whole lot of time as the next stage….wearable….is right around the corner. We might have two years or so left to really think deeply about integration before we’re all playing with this new phase of technology hardware and figuring out things again….basically starting over. What we learn during this pause will make that next stage that much easier to handle. If we have a deep understanding of technology integration and the role it places in the classroom and within learning then we can apply that knowledge to the new tool, see what it disrupts, see what it changes, and then use the next pause to really integrate it deeply into education.

Below is a hangout done by John Pederson and Dean Shareski. Two smart guys who make a living in this space. John asks Dean the question of what tool in the last year is going to stick? Dean has a hard time answering the question…in fact they both do….why…. because we’re in a pause. Every tool they talk about using is older than a year….in fact every tool they mention have been around for several years now. Why? Because we’re in a pause. It’s an interesting conversation and I just like listening to two smart guys struggle with a question that for people who make a living in this space should be easy.

So here’s the challenge. If we’re in a pause….let’s take advantage of it. Let’s stop for a moment asking what’s the next thing…..it will be wearable…we know that…and we have some time before it’s here. So let’s enjoy this moment and take the opportunity to go deep in our thinking of how we use the tools we have really really well. Let’s really look at the theory of Connectivism. Let’s really look at SAMR and TPACK and make our brains hurt going really deep and having the hard conversations of how all these tools we have really impact education in meaningful and lasting way.

Those are the conversations I want to be having. The conversation of how does everything we have available today truly impact the learning environment? Stop asking me what device or what platform. Let’s move pass these questions and go deep into something different…something better.

We can not expect teachers to take a risk and try something new if we ourselves are not willing to try something new.

I held a PD session for K-12 teachers after school today. It was one of 5 technology sessions we offered to teachers in what is known as TECH Wednesdays. Basically one Wednesday a month is set aside for tech PD. Today’s sessions included:

Blogging: (Brought 15 more teachers online)

Netvibes: Learn about Ginger and the new Universe function (Netvibes is the dominate RSS reader at our school)

Photoshop: Basic photo munipulation (resize, crop, rotate, etc)

Beginner Basics: For those who need just basic computer help at a beginner level

Why Not?: My session which focused on the question Why (BYOL=Bring Your Own Laptop session).

Not only did I want to try and help teachers understand why we need to be using technology to teach but I also wanted to demonstarte how one of these tools could be used in a classroom setting.

If I was asking my teachers to take a risk in their own classroom, then I felt I needed to show that I too was willing to take a risk with my presentation and push myself to try something new. So, I set up a chat room using chatzy.com. As people filed into my session I had them open their laptops and helped them to log into the private chat room.

I was taking a risk on a couple of different levels.

  1. I had never used chatzy.com before and was praying that it was stable enough and easy enough for teachers to be able to figure out with little instruction.
  2. I was worried that our wireless access point would not deal with more than 20 laptops in the room. So earilier in the day I asked the IT department to install two other access points…praying we could make it work.
  3. We are in China…and there is always the “China Factor” that you need to worry about.
  4. Would the teachers take the chat room seriously or would it, like it could with students if not structured correctly, become a place to play rather than to think deep?

And of course…just in case something failed I brought chocolate! Teachers, after a long day of teaching, will forgive you when you fail if you have chocolate….I always have chocolate. 🙂

I began the session by explaining that I was taking a risk, and quickly explained what a back channel conversation was and how it could be a very powerful learning tool in a classroom. I of course, couldn’t watch the chat on my computer as it was playing videos and held my notes for the session (I did however have two spys in the audience that I had asked ahead of time to try and focus the conversation if it did get off task…teachers are the worst students 😉 )

So I began where you usually begin when you are talking about change…the beginning. I started with the constructivist theory of learning seeing that all of us in the room went through teacher school learning this theory. It’s not a bad theory and one that I do believe in. The problem is it was created in 1967 and things have changed since then. It’s a good theory that needs a couple updates. In comes the connectivism theory. A theory that looks at the connected nature of information today and the role networks play in the learning process.

So we have a theory that states: individuals construct new knowledge from their experiences.

and a theory that states: Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual.

So together we get:

A theory that states: Individuals construct new knowledge from their experiences. Experiences that occur within nebulous environments of shifting core elements.

We’ll call it the Constructive Connective Mashup Theory of Knowledge Acquisition for now. 🙂

We talked about the two theories for awhile and how in a world where information is chaotic connected and complex that we need to find ways to make that relevent to our students and engage them in creating new meaning from what they themselves have experienced.

We then went on to talk about how Bloom’s Taxonomy of High Order Thinking Skills has been revisited based on research that learning is an active state. Therefore, Bloom’s Taxonomy needed to be updated to reflect this by using verbs.

external image Bloom_1.jpg

Again, remember as I’m explaining all of this the room of about 15 teachers are chatting in the private chat room and I don’t have any idea of what they are saying. It’s an interesting moment when you look up to get an audiences reaction to something you just said to find that not one person is looking at you, but instead staring at their laptops. I didn’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing…but it is different and it is something that as presenters and as teachers we need to get use to if we want our audience to engage in reall meaningful conversations (again creating meaning from personal experience).

After I had my 15 minute talk. I opened it up for discussion on what teachers were thinking and any thoughts they had on using the chat room. We had a quick discussion about the theories and the taxonomy but not one comment about the chat room. I started wondering if it was just to much for the teachers. Did they not get it? Should I have explained it more? To late now…..

I then showed two videos and asked that they just reflect on their message and use the chat room to learn and think from each other.

We watched

Pay Attention


Do Schools Kill Creativity?

I had more to share and planned on bringing it back to some of the things that teachers are doing already in our school but we ran out of time. We finished with a discussion about the two videos and again I asked about their experience with the chat…and again no response. The nice thing about chatzy is that it archives the chat so I sat down tonight and went back through to see what the conversation was about. Here are some of my favorite thoughts from the chat.

how do we set up the chatzy?

As long as you structure your lessons to make the use of the technology tool it will work

The diversity of opinions is key… especially with our population. So many of our students still want to be told what to think.

The Web = Chaos – we have to make sense

Why aren’t we all aware of a new Blooms? Should we be sharing it? Who decides

perhaps it’s also – can we ourselves create new knowledge? how can you teach creation without experiencing it yourself?

cell phones give our kids confidence, (
My 6 yr old) had access to one the other day to play by herself and she utilized it like a pro

Go to http://www.ceap.wcu.edu/Houghton/learner/Think94/NCmarzanoThink.html for a link to Marzano’s New Blooms

i love that comment about the students only asking a question every 10 hours, the tech they can access is so much more immediate and real to them than that

DEAR is spent reading blogs in my class, twice a week

I can’t believe that even 39% think school will matter later in life

IPod + podcast = anytime learning… I need to put that in my elective description.

creativity requires thinking

risk taking

success in NCLB is not on how well teach the test but on how well we teach kids to think…personal experience has taught me that the best teachers teach kids to learn not a content

And to create an environment of risk-taking the teacher cannot serve as the know it all… they serve as the facilitator of the creativity!!!

absolutely – facilitating activities, providing models to tweak etc

The HS digital media club impresses me and is almost all student driven beyond what we have ‘schooled’ them in. Students drive the creativity though like jim says the test driven format of HS limits us and them.

We can all end up at the same point it is how we get there that makes the difference

I think that young child stop taking risks and stop being creative when they stop playing or when we organize their play too much

I think there is far too little time for PE for our elementary kids – they need to run and play more often!

one of the best experiences I had was when I had a classroom without desks and every lesson we used the outdoors to learn things. the kids were engaged and interested and thinking. I didn’t have paper assessemnts I watched the students and assessed them. basicly the students played at tasks while I watched and then we talked about their learning. And this was with grade 7’s and 8’s. I would love to have a classroom like this again

The chat: can be used in so many ways

Now I don’t know how they actually felt about using the chat as a back channel as none of them spoke up to tell me. But I learned a lot by going back and reading the chat and there is a part of me that wishes I could have been a part of it. Note to self…next time bring two laptops. One for the preso and one to chat. 🙂

[tags]21st Century Learning, connectivism, presentation[/tags]

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I’ve been catching up on my RSS reader over the past couple of day. I’ve decided I need to prune the aggregator again and really focus in on some good solid learning that I need to do.

George Siemens’ connectivism blog is one that always makes my brain hurt. I’ve just tried reading four articles in a row and now I’m looking for the advil. George has a writing style that is so clear, so true that, for me at least, pulls me in and really makes me think about my own learning, my own beliefs and question what it is I’m trying to accomplish. If you don’t use an RSS reader he allows you to sign up for a bi-weekly newsletter that is well work an extra e-mail in your inbox.

Out of the four posting I just got done reading, the posting on Digital natives and immigrants has me thinking about where we are in society.

Siemens believes that the Prensky analogy of Digital Native, Digital Immigrants has

outlived the role it initially played in getting educators to think about the different types of learners now entering our classrooms.

I agree with this statement the more I think about it, but I’m still left searching for a better analogy of the shift that has occurred.

Siemens goes on to explain that the shift has been in society and not in the generation itself. Something that easily hits home with me working at a school in China that has gone from 850 international students to almost 3,000 in the same time the Internet as we know it today has existed. Coincidence? I think not.

As I gave a presentation to parents today explaining to them their children and how they learn, communicate, collaborate, and live digitally, I found myself still using Prensky’s analogy. Those of us in the business need to understand that it is society that is changing and why we need to change our educational systems. But for mothers and fathers understanding that the tools their children use are different, allow them to communicate and live in different ways continues to be an emotional attachment that the digital natives, digital immigrants argument still fits nicely into.

In 2001 when Prensky wrote the paper I do not think many of us understood the changes to society that were and would take place over the next six years. Many people credit Thomas Friedman and his book The World is Flat with bringing this social shifts to the main stage. But yet I’m left looking for a ‘hook’ when talking to parents and other educators that might better explain to them the children they are now raising and teaching. To understand that these children are different because of the tools they have available to learn with not the generation itself. Although they are a great generation but they would have been without these tools. They wouldn’t have been as connected, as global, but still great.

So I’m left thinking; what’s the hook? What is it we tell educators, administrators, parents, school boards, and community members for the reason we need to shift the way we teach? They have been part of this social shift yet they don’t understand it, or refuse to see it. Out-sourcing is part of this shift, so is in-sourcing, so is innovation, and business. We all live in this shifted society but do we understand it? Do we understand what it means not only for us but for our children?

What is the hook?

[tags]shiftedlearning, Thomas Friedman, World is Flat, 21st Century Learning, Connectivism[/tags]

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I was reading Will’s post today It’s Not Just the “Read/Write” Web and then thanks to twitter John Pederson’s post on Networks (I think that’s what it’s on anyway).

As I read I started thinking about a post I did back in January on defining School 2.0.

Not sure if it’s OK to quote yourself but back then I wrote:

School 2.0 although driven to change by the advancement of technology is not about technology, it’s about the advancement of society, of our culture as a world. Technology played a large part, but it is society that has changed. Everything from out-sourcing work to Asia, to the built in GPS in your car, to the phone/pda/web/music/video/picture iphone. Society has changed that’s why a new school is needed. If you think schools need to change because of technology…I’d argue you have it wrong. Schools need to change because our society has changed.

And I still believe this is true. What is School 2.0? It’s the new network world we live in. In the past couple of year I have started looking at everything differently. Is it just me or do you go around noticing all the ways our society relays on networks?

Today I went to the dentist where they took my picture because they are going  “Chartless.” Why? Because if all the information is in the computer they can easily access it from any room in the office. I go to room one and by the time I sit in the chair my chart is on the computer screen. The hygienist has a complete history of my visits, with pictures of my teeth and all the information she needs to do her job. The dentists in our area are also all forming a network to easily transfer and share files of patients. So now if I needed braces they would send the complete file electronically.

Or what about last week when my wife was looking for a new pair of shoes. The store didn’t have them in her size but the lady helping us scanned the shoe and then looked at the inventory of 5 other stores within our area to see if they had the right size. With a couple clicks the nice lady tells my wife that the shoes will be in the store in two days.

Will writes:

But here’s the thing that’s been sticking with me of late. For all of the talk about Classroom 2.0 and School 2.0 and Addyourwordhere 2.0, there still isn’t much talk about what fuels the 2.0…the network.

And I believe this is where we need to get. The tools allow us to form networks, to form our own personal learning networks continually connecting, disconnecting, and reconnection to the information we need. The tools allow us to become a learning nod for others, but I believe it’s been said before that RSS is the glue that holds it all together. It allows us to connect to these different nods. Pull them in, compare, contrast, mashup, and create new content based on the information you have and the information you want.

While at the EdBloggerCon at NECC I brought up in a session that we need to change teaching at its roots. At the very foundation….the pedagogy. Some disagreed with me saying that good teaching is still good teaching. I’m just not sure if I can swallow that.

Does good teaching in 1920 look the same as good teaching in 1950….1980…..1990…..200?. With the advancements in brain research alone can you say that good teaching never changes?
At this moment I think George Siemens Knowing Knowledge and connectivism theory of learning best represents how learning and knowledge has been changed in this new 2.0 world.


Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.

Connectivism is a new theory based on networks and connections. A new theory brings with it a new Pedagogy that we need to understand. If we continue to use old theories to teach new skills we can never truly create the change we talk about in the blogosphere. I was taught the constructivist theory believe it is a good learning theory and is what is expected in an interview. But does it take into account the new networked world we live in? The new chaos and expansiveness of information today.

If we truly want to see the change we are all hoping for than I believe we need to look at the very root of education. We need to understand that the tools are only the things we use. It’s the network, the connections, the creating of new information in this open and free space that truly impacts learning, our society, and our world.

[tags]School2.0, connectivism, George Siemens[/tags]

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OK, my second round of highlights from George Siemens’ new book Knowing Knowledge. You can find the first round here.

What skills and processes do we need to work with soft knowledge? We have spent our history with hard/codified knowledge as a product. We now need to learn to work with soft knowledge as a process.-p 22

We can no longer rely on categorization to meet our needs in a rapidly evolving, global knowledge climate. We must rely on network-formation and development of knowledge ecologies. We must become different people with different habits. -p 23

Learning is more than knowledge acquisition. Often it is a process of several stages with several distinct components. -p 25

Knowledge today requires a shift from cognitive processing to pattern recognition. -p 26

Learning is the process of creating networks. Nodes are external entities which we can use to form a network. Or nodes may be people, organizations, libraries, web sites, books, journals, databases, or any other source of information. The act of learning (things become a bit tricky here) is one of creating an external network of nodes-where we connect and form information and knowledge sources. The learning that happens in our heads is an internal network (neural). learning networks can then be perceived as structures that we create in order to stay current and continually acquire, experience, create, and connect new knowledge (external). And learning networks can be perceived as structures that exist within our minds (internal) in connecting and creating patterns of understanding. -p 29

Not all nodes within a learning network continue to remain relevant. As an intelligent network, our mind continually reshapes and adjusts to reflect new environments and information. -p 30

A learner who continually encounters new information and knowledge, will dynamically update and rewrite his/her network of learning and belief. -p 30

Connectivism is a theory describing how learning happens in a digital age. Research in traditional learning theories comes from an era when networking technologies were not yet prominent. How does learning change when knowledge growth is overwhelming and technology replaces many basic tasks we have previously performed? -p 30

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, complexity, and self-organization theories. -p 30

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. -p 30

I have been given time at tomorrow’s staff meeting to follow up on the presentation I made last Friday to the student body. I’m trying to find a way to bring the staff into this new world of learning. There are some quotes here that I know will help me explain this new world of information we are in, and what that means for our classrooms.

[tags]Knowing Knowledge, George Siemens, Connectivism[/tags]

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